Google Launches Web Book Reader

Firing a shot over Adobe's bow, Google on Wednesday launched a Web-based application for reading books digitized by the company's Book Search project. Like Google Maps and Gmail, the interactive tool works directly in a Web browser and supports zooming as well as a fullscreen mode.

Books that are available through the search can still be downloaded in PDF format, but Google's online utility replaces the need for the bulky Adobe Reader. Users can switch to a two-page view that appears like a physical book, or read one page per screen like a standard Web page. Scrolling through the book is instant using the mouse.

On the right side of the page, users can find a search and table of contents that lets them jump through to different sections of a book, as well as links to purchase the book from a number of online retailers. Google has also linked the application up to Google Scholar so users can locate works that reference the book.

"Just click on "About this book" to find more books related to the book you're reading," says Google developer Nathan Naze. "If the book How to Draw Comic Book Heroes and Villains interests you, you'll probably like Comic Book Artist Collection, Vol. 1. We also revised our 'About this book' page to provide better information for in-copyright books, from which you can just see short snippets or a limited preview."

For now, the number of full books available for reading is still limited, as Google is still in the process of digitizing a number of major libraries including those of the Universities of Michigan and California, Harvard, Oxford, Stanford, as well as the New York Public Library. Google recently signed a deal to scan 3 million works from Complutense University in Madrid.

Still, not everyone is impressed with the immense effort to catalog the world's books. Last month, a second publisher group in France has joined a lawsuit against Google in French court over its Google Book Search service. The suit is similar to one brought forth by the US-based Author's Guild and was filed October 24.

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